Tyrone Smith dreaming of Olympic swan song
Tyrone Smith is dreaming of achieving one final Olympic Games appearance to sign off on his athletics career in the most fitting of swan songs.
The Bermudian long jumper, who has represented the island at three Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016, is determined to once again step out on the world’s biggest sporting stage and compete at the rescheduled Games in Tokyo, scheduled to take place between July 23 and August 8 August.
The 36-year-old conceded he went through a period of “soul searching” after the Games were postponed last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, before refocusing his efforts into qualifying in what will be his final hurrah in the sport.
“It would be incredible to qualify one last time out be able to leave on my own terms,” said Smith, who plans to compete in Tokyo alongside wife Sandi Morris, the leading United States pole vaulter.
“I want to make one last Olympics, show everyone, and more importantly myself, what I’m capable of and then walk off into the sunset.
“I always knew this would be my very last chance to go to the Olympics. I prepared to qualify last year and then to see the Games postponed was truly gutting.
“I had to go through a period of soul searching as to whether I had it in me to put that level of effort in again this year, but ultimately I decided it give it another go and try and reach one last Olympics.
“My wife should qualify, too, so I thought about how lovely it would be to be there together and have the opportunity of photos of us both competing at the Olympics.”
While Smith admits to having to combat the inevitable limitations of entering the twilight years of his career, he also now has to contend with World Athletics' dramatically altered qualifying standards, making it harder than ever before for athletes to book their place.
Despite having to jump 8.22 metres — a distance that would have won a silver medal at London 2012 — or be ranked inside the top 30 to qualify, Smith is far from deterred by the latest setback, with a personal best of 8.34.
“It’s funny because in athletic circles, we always joke about me being the old guy, but to me you’re only as old as you feel,” he added. “I’m still hitting my targets in training and I’m at least as strong, if not stronger, than I was ten years ago.
“I might not be able to hit those big distances every time I go out, but I definitely still have the ability to pull one out of the bag when needed, and that’s all I really need.
“The change in the qualifying is really frustrating but I know I can jump the distance and also for the majority of my career I’ve not been out of the top 20.
“While you get more qualification points by competing at bigger events like the Diamond League, it is difficult to be over in Europe at the moment with everything that is going on.
“However, I can qualify by jumping the distance at any sanctioned event and so it could be done at a smaller event as I did in the United States to qualify for London 2012.”
Although he is yet to book his place in Tokyo, Smith revealed he is not planning on competing until May — less than two months before the qualification deadline of June 29 — with his preparations fine-tuned towards hitting peak form at the optimum time.
“I’m not where I want to be just yet, so I want be ready to be able to give it my best shot,” he added.
“I’m not preparing to compete in 15 different competitions this year; I’m training to be able to produce three big jumps. One to maximise my chance of qualifying for the Olympics, another to reach the Olympic finals and one last one to show the world what I’m capable of.
“I still think I have some big jumps in the tank and I believe I’m still capable of pulling one out of the bag on the biggest stage of all.”